Forest watchdog, the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), has synchronized and identified “Contradictions” between the Community Rights Law (CRL) and the Land Rights Law (LRL), and therefore the government and stakeholders should work together to build a cohesive bridge between the two laws.
Otherwise, SDI feels that while the government thinks it is making frantic efforts to reduce conflicts arising over the country’s land, the intended results may not be realized but the conflict may exacerbate.
The CRL came into force in 2009, and the LRL was signed by the Executive Branch on September 19, 2018, following its passage by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The CRL is the introduction of an inclusive and participatory community forest management framework, which provides that communities may enter into an agreement with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), granting them self-governance of communally owned “Forested or partially forested land.”
For the LRL, it places special emphasis on the devolution of land use decision from the national government to community level self-governance.
The LRL defines several kinds of community land other than forest land, and for the establishment of a community body referred to as the Community Land Development Management Committee (CLDMC) that would handle land governance, and land administration matters at the community level.
But in the particular case of community forests, the LRL reverts all regulatory power back to the CRL.
The forest watchdog quoted portion of the LRL as saying, “a community may use its forest lands and harvest all timber and non-timber products thereon, directly or indirectly in keeping with the provisions of the Community Rights Law of Liberia (CRLL) and the National Reforms Forestry Law of 2006.”
SDI in its observation noted that the above provision concerns land, henceforth designated as community forest land as defined by the LRL or an area already operated by the community under an existing Community Forest Management Authority (CFMA) with the FDA.
This, according to SDI has the potential to cause serious land conflicts in the future if clarifying and rectifying regulation are not forthcoming.
In its analysis of the expected conflict issues, SDI segmented some of the potential contradictions comparing the CRL and the LRL, and underscoring the potential areas of conflict.
Under the Community Rights Law, FDA is to conduct socioeconomic survey and participatory resource mapping of forest land, post results and resolve any disputes.
The LRL on the other hand notes that demarcation of communal land done by the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), community conducts land identification or categorization designating, for example, land as communal forest land. The LLA registers community deed, thereby concluding its land documentation process.
In comparison both the laws, the SDI underscored that there are 36 CFMAs that precede the LLA, and many more may commence before the LLA takes full effect. Therefore, the significant difference in the definition of community forest land between LRL and CRL might lead to conflict.
In another instance, the CRL is to mandate the FDA to resolve disputes between communities, while the LLA conducts confirmatory survey, including confirming that neighbors accept the boundaries and is mandated to resolve disputes.
The issue that may arise, in SDI’s view, is that in theory, the LRL places responsibility for dispute resolution between communities with the LLA, while the CRL mandate for dispute resolution granted to the FDA becomes redundant, which may lead to inaction of both FDA and LRL authorities if either agency pushes responsibility to the other.
Another issue is that the CRL says community will establish governance structure, including Community Assembly (CA) and Community Forest Management Body (CFMB), and governance instruments including constitution and by-laws, while the LRL also allows community to establish governance instruments (by-laws) and structures.
Although both laws propose governance structures and instruments on the community level that theoretically complement each other; nevertheless, SDI observes that differences between the two laws as to who is a community member and who is eligible for administrative office might lead to conflict.
CRL sets the basis for it to foresee paid community forestry management positions and regulate benefit sharing, and the LRL prohibits salaries for communal land governance bodies and obliges higher government levels to carry costs incurred by communal land administration.
To this point, the SDI says: “The differences in funding and remuneration might exasperate vulnerable to lobbying, and also protectionism within the two communal administrations, while the LLA might become chronically starved of funds and overwhelmed by its tasks.”
SDI made the observation were expressed on March 7, 2019, during a press conference in Monrovia. One of the staffs, Ali Kaba, said the SDI is willing to assist in finding a harmonious way to bridge the gaps if the government is willing to seek advice from partners.
SDI is actively involved with activities of Liberian forest, and it periodically publishes reports about how the managing the forest.